Many people are currently suffering from a chronic pain disorder called Fibromyalgia, which causes those affected to feel unnatural pain and an increased sensitivity to pain. Fibromyalgia affects more than 4 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although it is clear that Fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory or autoimmune disease, the cause is still unknown.
Fibromyalgia causes wide-spread muscle pain and tenderness all over the body. The pain can shift areas or occur in many places at once. The intensity of the pain may change from day to day, or even hour by hour. Those with fibromyalgia may describe the pain as aching, deep, shooting or tingling. In addition to pain, other symptoms of fibromyalgia may include body stiffness, fatigue, trouble thinking or concentrating, and even memory loss.
Although there is no known cause, certain factors can put you at an increased risk for developing fibromyalgia. The disorder is typically diagnosed in middle-aged people, but can sometimes affect children. Women are twice as likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. Repeated injuries can cause or worsen the condition, and there are reported links between developing fibromyalgia and experiencing traumatic events, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the CDC.
The two most common complications of fibromyalgia are depression and poor sleep. The presence of consistent and chronic pain takes a heavy toll on the mental state of those with fibromyalgia. This often coincides with feelings of helplessness and anxiety. Lack of sleep can intensify these feelings, which often go untreated if a patient has not already been diagnosed. This can worsen depression.
If you’re feeling depressed or have thoughts of suicide due to chronic pain, talk to your doctor right away or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255.
If you are experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia, visit your physician for further testing. A physician, typically a rheumatologist, will diagnose fibromyalgia by excluding similar conditions through a series of physical examinations, blood tests, X-rays, and by reviewing a patient’s medical history.
Once fibromyalgia is diagnosed, it can be treated with a combination of medication and self-management strategies. It’s important to note that there is no role for opioids to help manage the pain. Muscle strengthening classes, such as aerobics, can also help to mitigate symptoms. Stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation and massages can improve mental health difficulties associated with fibromyalgia. Symptoms of fibromyalgia may vary. Therefore, patient education and individual pain management programs are crucial to ensure the best possible treatment outcomes.
Living with fibromyalgia is completely manageable with the right treatment plan.
Dr. Sizemore is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Rheumatology.